Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Luis Alberto Urrea  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult;

Born: 1955 Tijuana, Mexico


-- Website -- http://luisurrea.com/
-- Luis Alberto Urrea on WorldCat -- http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=luis+alberto+urrea

E-Mail: -- luisurrea@luisurrea.com


Illinois Connection

Urrea lives in Naperville and is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Luis Alberto Urrea is the bestselling author of ''The Devil's Highway'', ''The Hummingbird's Daughter'', ''Into the Beautiful North'', and ''Queen of America'', among others. He has won the Lannan Literary Award, the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize, an American Book Award, the Christopher Award, and an Edgar Award, among other honors. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, he lives outside of Chicago and is a distinguished professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago. A member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, he is a prolific and acclaimed writer who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Across the Wire: Life and Hard Times on the Mexican Border
ISBN: 0385425309

Anchor. 1993

Luis Alberto Urrea's Across the Wire offers a compelling and unprecedented look at what life is like for those refugees living on the Mexican side of the border—a world that is only some twenty miles from San Diego, but that few have seen. Urrea gives us a compassionate and candid account of his work as a member and "official translator" of a crew of relief workers that provided aid to the many refugees hidden just behind the flashy tourist spots of Tijuana. His account of the struggle of these people to survive amid abject poverty, unsanitary living conditions, and the legal and political chaos that reign in the Mexican borderlands explains without a doubt the reason so many are forced to make the dangerous and illegal journey "across the wire" into the United States.
More than just an expose, Across the Wire is a tribute to the tenacity of a people who have learned to survive against the most impossible odds, and returns to these forgotten people their pride and their identity.

In Search of Snow (Camino del Sol)
ISBN: 0816520151

University of Arizona Press. 1999

In the hot Arizona desert of the late 1950s, Mike McGurk comes of age in one big, riotous gush. Trapped pumping gas at a desolate roadstop, he yearns for things he has never known: love, hope, and the soft, white calmness of snow. Mike's world is filled with a menagerie of quirky characters, who cope with the weight of their unfulfilled dreams with bravado, humor, and violence. Mike trades snappy insults with his macho father, Texaco Turk McGurk, a moustachioed amateur boxer and self-proclaimed war hero who is unable to talk about love. Mike lusts after Lily, his seductive, poem-writing cousin. He cowers before and then confronts the vicious Ramses, grandson of Mr. Sneezy, the wisecracking Apache. And he is rescued by his best friend, Bobo, who delivers him into the care of the loving and generous Mama and Papa Garcia.

In Search of Snow is an explosive coming-of-age adventure, full of hilarious episodes and still, poignant moments. Like a blue-collar Don Quixote, Mike must blow up his windmills before he can set off to find the things he lacks, especially the snow that will temper the passion he has just set aflame.

The Fever of Being
ISBN: 0931122783

West End Press. 1994

The Fever of Being is a series of poems, some written entirely or partly in Spanish, ranging in mood from comic to tragic and dealing with Urrea's life within the Hispanic-Anglo border culture.

Ghost Sickness: A Book of Poems
ISBN: 093831730X

Cinco Puntos Press. 1997

poetry from Western States Book Award winner

Wandering Time: Western Notebooks (Camino del Sol)
ISBN: 0816518661

University of Arizona Press. 1999

Fleeing a failed marriage and haunted by ghosts of his past, Luis Alberto Urrea jumped into his car several years ago and headed west. Driving cross-country with a cat named Rest Stop, Urrea wandered the West from one year's spring through the next.

Hiking into aspen forests where leaves "shiver and tinkle like bells" and poking alongside creeks in the Rockies, he sought solace and wisdom. In the forested mountains he learned not only the names of trees—he learned how to live. As nature opened Urrea's eyes, writing opened his heart. In journal entries that sparkle with discovery, Urrea ruminates on music, poetry, and the landscape. With wonder and spontaneity, he relates tales of marmots, geese, bears, and fellow travelers. He makes readers feel mountain air "so crisp you feel you could crunch it in your mouth" and reminds us all to experience the magic and healing of small gestures, ordinary people, and common creatures.

Urrea has been heralded as one of the most talented writers of his generation. In poems, novels, and nonfiction, he has explored issues of family, race, language, and poverty with candor, compassion, and often astonishing power. Wandering Time offers his most intimate work to date, a luminous account of his own search for healing and redemption.

Six Kinds of Sky: A Collection of Short Fiction
ISBN: 0938317636

Cinco Puntos Press. 2002

"Home isn't just a place, it is also a language."

Born in Tijuana, the son of an Anglo woman and a Mexican father, Urrea says that "Home isn't just a place, it is also a language." In these six stories—each wandering beneath different kinds of sky, from the thick Mazatlan starry night to the wide open spaces of the Sioux Nation in South Dakota—Urrea maps the spiritual geography of what he calls "home."

"I always thought Luis Urrea was six skies rolled into one (I mean that in a good way), and this book proves that he speaks with a multitude of passionate, powerful and hilarious voices. This book is a beautiful kind of crazy."—Sherman Alexie

"With this new collection of stories, Luis Urrea makes the short list of essential American writers. His glittering landscapes, which warp and ennoble the human spirit, bring to mind the work of Salman Rushdie. I found myself going back and rereading whole passages Urrea's got a way with words that raises the bar for the rest of us. What a marvel of a book!"—Demetria Martínez

"Urrea goes in for the big picture, and there seems to be no world he cannot capture. He writes with wit and ingenuity, and the stories possess a powerful sense of acceleration. With each story I was transported to an intense and fully imagined world."—Robert Boswell

Luis Urrea is a novelist, essayist and poet. His books have received The American Book Award for non-fiction, 1998, and The Western States Book Award for Poetry, 1994, and The New York Times named his non-fiction Across the Wire a Notable Book of the Year, 1993. Luis lives in Chicago.

The Devil's Highway: A True Story
ISBN: 0316010804

Little Brown. 2004

In a new 10th anniversary edition: "The single most compelling, lucid, and lyrical contemporary account of the absurdity of U.S. border policy" (The Atlantic).

In May 2001, a group of men attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona, through the deadliest region of the continent, the "Devil's Highway." Three years later, Luis Alberto Urrea wrote about what happened to them. The result was a national bestseller, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a "book of the year" in multiple newspapers, and a work proclaimed as a modern American classic.

The Hummingbird's Daughter
ISBN: 0316154520

Back Bay Books. 2006

Discover an epic historical novel of a young saint escaping death from Pulitzer Prize finalist Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels.

The prizewinning writer Luis Alberto Urrea's long-awaited novel is an epic mystical drama of a young woman's sudden sainthood in late 19th-century Mexico. It is 1889, and civil war is brewing in Mexico. A 16-year-old girl, Teresita, the illegitimate but beloved daughter of the wealthy and powerful rancher Don Tomas Urrea, wakes from the strangest dream-a dream that she has died. Only it was not a dream. This passionate and rebellious young woman has arisen from death with a power to heal-but it will take all her faith to endure the trials that await her and her family now that she has become the Saint of Cabora. The Hummingbird's Daughter is a vast, hugely satisfying novel of love and loss, joy and pain.

Into the Beautiful North: A Novel
ISBN: 0316025275

Little, Brown and Company. 2009

Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the US to find work. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn't the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village--they've all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men--her own "Siete Magnficos"--to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over.

Filled with unforgettable characters and prose as radiant as the Sinaloan sun, INTO THE BEAUTIFUL NORTH is the story of an irresistible young woman's quest to find herself on both sides of the fence.

Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush
ISBN: 1933693231

Cinco Puntos Press. 2010

Mr. Mendoza, Mexico’s self-described king of graffiti, blesses the small town of Rosario with his sardonic wit. “Deflate your pomp or float away!” he paints on the body of an unexpectedly exhumed monk. “No intelligent life for 100 kilometers,” he proclaims on the sign that announces Rosario’s boundaries.

The residents of Rosario tolerate or enjoy Mr. Mendoza’s commentary as best they can. But the town goes crazy when Mendoza announces—on the side of a pig—“Mendoza goes to heaven on Tuesday.” Each new declaration from Mendoza drives speculation about his future. Suicide? Cancer? Syphillis? All the theories were in play until the Tuesday when Mendoza transformed his life with art.

Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush was originally written as a short story by Luis Alberto Urrea, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Devil’s Highway and an Edgar Award winner for his short story “Amapola.” It was published in 2002 as part of his collection Six Kinds of Sky. Artist Christopher Cardinale, whose graphic essays have appeared in the seminal magazines World War III and Punk Planet, adapted the short story to the graphic novel form.

And critics are raving about the outcome. The Bloomsbury Review says, “Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush is a rich gift, an off-center, enigmatic tale with a well-coupled balance of narration and art. Urrea and Cardinale are a ‘match made in heaven.’” And Publishers Weekly adds that “this lovely comics adaptation…may have found the ideal way to present magical realism graphically.”

Queen of America: A Novel
ISBN: 0316154865

Little, Brown and Company. 2011

At turns heartbreaking, uplifting, fiercely romantic, and riotously funny, QUEEN OF AMERICA tells the unforgettable story of a young woman coming of age and finding her place in a new world. Beginning where Luis Alberto Urrea's bestselling The Hummingbird's Daughter left off, QUEEN OF AMERICA finds young Teresita Urrea, beloved healer and "Saint of Cabora," with her father in 1892 Arizona. But, besieged by pilgrims in desperate need of her healing powers, and pursued by assassins, she has no choice but to flee the borderlands and embark on an extraordinary journey into the heart of turn-of-the-century America.


Teresita's passage will take her to New York, San Francisco, and St. Louis, where she will encounter European royalty, Cuban poets, beauty queens, anxious immigrants and grand tycoons-and, among them, a man who will force Teresita to finally ask herself the ultimate question: is a saint allowed to fall in love?

The Water Museum: Stories
ISBN: 0316334375

Little, Brown and Company. 2015

NAMED NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR by Washington Post, BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Kirkus Reviews, NPR, Men's Journal

A new short story collection from Luis Alberto Urrea, bestselling author of The Hummingbird's Daughter and The Devil's Highway.


From one of America's preeminent literary voices comes a new story collection that proves once again why the writing of Luis Alberto Urrea has been called "wickedly good" (Kansas City Star), "cinematic and charged" (Cleveland Plain Dealer), and "studded with delights" (Chicago Tribune). Examining the borders between one nation and another, between one person and another, Urrea reveals his mastery of the short form. This collection includes the Edgar-award winning "Amapola" and his now-classic "Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses," which had the honor of being chosen for NPR's "Selected Shorts" not once but twice.

Suffused with wanderlust, compassion, and no small amount of rock and roll, THE WATER MUSEUM is a collection that confirms Luis Alberto Urrea as an American master.

The House of Broken Angels
ISBN: 0316154881

Little, Brown and Company. 2018

The quintessential story of what it means to be the first generation to live two lives across one border, The House of Broken Angels is Pulitzer Prize finalist Luis Alberto Urrea's unforgettable portrait of the De La Cruz family as they celebrate the lives of two of their most beloved members over the course of one raucous and bittersweet weekend.

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

"All we do, mija, is love. Love is the answer. Nothing stops it. Not borders. Not death."

In his final days, beloved and ailing patriarch Miguel Angel de La Cruz, affectionately called Big Angel, has summoned his entire clan for one last legendary birthday party. But as the party approaches, his mother, nearly one hundred, dies, transforming the weekend into a farewell doubleheader. Among the guests is Big Angel's half brother, known as Little Angel, who must reckon with the truth that although he shares a father with his siblings, he has not, as a half gringo, shared a life.

Across two bittersweet days in their San Diego neighborhood, the revelers mingle among the palm trees and cacti, celebrating the lives of Big Angel and his mother, and recounting the many inspiring tales that have passed into family lore, the acts both ordinary and heroic that brought these citizens to a fraught and sublime country and allowed them to flourish in the land they have come to call home.

Teeming with brilliance and humor, authentic at every turn, The House of Broken Angels is Luis Alberto Urrea at his best, and cements his reputation as a storyteller of the first rank.


"Epic . . . Rambunctious . . . Highly entertaining." --New York Times Book Review

"A raucous, moving, and necessary book . . . Intimate and touching . . . the stuff of legend." --San Francisco Chronicle

"Brilliant . . . Exceptional . . . The House of Broken Angels hums with joy." --NPR

"An immensely charming and moving tale." --Boston Globe

"A book about celebration that it, itself, a celebration." --Washington Post


Awards

Across the Wire

  • Notable Book of the Year Award, New York Times
  • The Devil's Highway

  • Finalist, Pulitzer Prize
  • Montclar Book, Montclair State University, 2013
  • All-Freshman Read, University of Texas-San Antonio
  • The Hummingbird's Daughter

  • ILLINOIS READS Book Selection, Illinois Reading Council, 2013
  • Into the Beautiful North

  • Big Read Book, NEA
  • Ghost Sickness

  • Poetry from Western States Book Award
  • The Water Museum

  • Starred Review, Kirkus
  • Finalist, PEN/Faulkner Award
  • Notable Book of the Year, Washington Post
  • Best Books of the Year, Kirkus
  • Best Books of the Year, NPR
  • Best Books of the Year, Men's Journal
  • Body of Work

  • Lannan Literary Award
  • American Book Award
  • Western States Book Award
  • Colorado Book Award
  • Latino Literary Hall of Fame
  • Christopher Award
  • Kiriyama Prize
  • Hispanic Cultural Center's Literary Award
  • Edgar Award
  • American Library Association Citation of Excellence
  • LAS Distinguished Professor

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)

    Please contact Trinity J. Ray, at tray@apbspeakers.com